FLORIAN HOEFNER TRIO – DESERT BLOOM
Florian Hoefner (piano)
Andrew Downing (bass)
Nick Fraser (drums)
“Florian Hoefner is a cerebral and harmonically daring pianist whose style crystallizes around jazz and blues fundamentals, but whose adventurous spirit finds him reaching toward new sonic territory. There is serious density to this music. Prepare to explore it on end.”
– Brian Zimmerman, DownBeat Magazine
“Mr. Hoefner is an articulate German-born pianist. […] His new album shows him to be a composer-bandleader of insightful resolve.”
– Nate Chinen, The New York Times
“Hoefner’s own poetry can also be chameleonic as he invents new harmonies and chords that are tantamount to reinventing tonality itself. […] sublimely evocative music.”
– Raul da Gama, The Whole Note
In this sequel to his award-winning, Juno-nominated album, “First Spring,” German-Canadian pianist/composer Florian Hoefner delivers another powerhouse performance on “Desert Bloom”, to be released worldwide June 3rd on Alma Records.
With striking new compositions and inspired arrangements, Hoefner’s hallmark lyricism and knack for suspenseful dramaturgy are on full display. With “Desert Bloom,” it is clear that Hoefner has taken complete advantage of the opportunity to deepen and strengthen his compositional craft. The result is an exceptional new album.
Of his process creating “Desert Bloom,” Hoefner writes:
“The open space provided by the pandemic facilitated weeks of uninterrupted composition time, allowing me to experiment with new approaches. I was inspired by post-minimalist composers such as Nico Muhly, Bryce Dessner, and Philip Glass, and dove into exploring repetitive structures, pedal points, and drones in my own writing. These devices also helped me to capture my experience during the early days of the pandemic, which was dominated by the contrast between an unruly and dramatic outside world and a much quieter personal world.”
A calling card of the German-born, New York-trained, Canadian pianist/composer is his ability to give his music a strong shape and storyline, something that critics have recognized: “It is the essence of flow, as clear as a stream rushing by and equally invigorating.” (New York City Jazz Record). In “Desert Bloom,” there is a particular alchemy at work: Hoefner’s music can be formally complex and has the kind of structural integrity that comes from a highly developed and careful craft, with far more attention to this than would normally be the case for a jazz piano trio. And yet, invariably, there is an emotional immediacy and appeal to it. In these 9 new tracks – 7 originals and 2 inventive arrangements – the compelling storytelling shines through.
The title of the album, “Desert Bloom,” refers to an extraordinary phenomenon which occurs in nature, and which resonated strongly with Hoefner:
“I watched a documentary on water and was blown away by the footage of a desert bloom in Chile’s Atacama Desert – the driest place on earth. In some parts of the desert, rain doesn’t fall for up to 10 years. But then, when the rain does come, the colours explode. After staying dormant in the ground for years, protected underneath the hot and dry desert floor, the seeds of wildflowers suddenly germinate after heavy rainfall, turning the desert into a flower garden within days [..] This is what it has felt like to be a musician over the last two years. Waiting and waiting for the bloom.”
That period of ‘waiting for the bloom’ – for the trio to be reunited – lasted almost a year and a half. Most of the music for the new album had already been written by the end of the first pandemic lockdown, but it took until August 2021 before the three players could gather in the same place (Hoefner lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland, more than 1300 miles from Toronto where the other two musicians are based.)
Hoefner has found a leaner and more direct form of expression here. “The minimalists have made me want to think about the importance of every single note, about shapes and intervals…” There is also a constantly shifting balance of the roles in the trio, and an openness to new sounds, such as a bass variant of the folk fiddle “chopping” technique with the bow from bassist Andrew Downing. Of drummer Nick Fraser’s contribution to this album, Hoefner says: “Nick is such a creative player with a huge dynamic range from the most filigree work to really hitting the kit hard.” These contrasts are captured superbly on this recording. Throughout, remarkable interplay between the three musicians attests to their unparalleled rapport.
This is jazz piano trio playing at an astonishing level. Hoefner, Downing, and Fraser grab the listener’s attention as they create and link a myriad of moods. There is a palpable expressive immediacy in their exploration of emotional extremes. Hoefner’s craft has never been stronger. With every listen, more and more of the album’s wealth of compositional subtleties emerge.
FLORIAN HOEFNER BIOGRAPHY
Florian Hoefner has had a unique trajectory through music, which may to some extent explain a capacity, noted by critics, to keep revealing new and unexpected facets of his artistry. Born in Bavaria, his talents were singled out at an early age. He held the piano chair in Germany’s national youth jazz orchestra (BuJazzO). Then followed studies in Berlin with Hubert Nuss and Kurt Rosenwinkel, a time during which he also started to tour extensively with his own bands. A Fulbright Scholarship brought him to New York City for studies with Jason Moran, a mentor who, according to Hoefner, inspired him “by showing that it is possible to find one’s own artistic horizons while connecting to tradition.”
Moving to Canada in 2014, there has been a consistent flow of awards for his work as both pianist and composer. “Luminosity” (Origin, 2017), a quartet album with Seamus Blake, was nominated as Jazz Recording of the Year at the East Coast Music Awards 2017. The Group also received the Stingray Rising Star Award from the Montréal Jazz Festival. “First Spring,” (2019, Alma Records) was nominated for a 2021 Juno in the category Jazz Album of the Year: Group, and also won the prizes for both “Instrumental Recording of the Year” and “Jazz Recording of the Year” at the 2020 East Coast Music Awards. Hoefner has also been a two-time winner of the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer Award.
CREDITS/TOUR DATES/PRESS QUOTES
Florian Hoefner Trio
Florian Hoefner: Piano, Arranger
Andrew Downing: Bass
Nick Fraser: Drums
Produced by Florian Hoefner
Recorded August 16-17, 2021 at Union Sound Company, Toronto, Canada
Recording Engineer: Nick Bonin
Assistant Engineer: Darren McGill, Edited by Nick Bonin
Mixed and mastered by Dave Darlington at Bass Hit Studios, NYC
Dolby Atmos mixes created by John “Beetle” Bailey at the Drive Shed, New Hamburg
Photography: Bo Huang
Graphic Design: Nadja von Massow / nad.works
1 Between The Lines (7:45)
2 Desert Bloom (7:36)
3 Neptune (7:52)
4 Shifting Baseline Syndrome (8:34)
5 Shelter (6:58)
6 It’s All Part Of The Plan (6:42)
7 The Day Everything Stopped (6:25)
8 The End Of The Tunnel (6:55)
9 Last More Time (6:36)
(All songs written Florian Hoefner, Published by Cardster Music Co., except #3 written by S. Stevens, N. Muhly, B. Dessner, J. McAlister, and #6 written by The Punch Brothers)